This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).
From Chapter 2 – The Right Skills: Objections
When all of the possible questions and concerns are proactively addressed in needs analysis, then theoretically there will be no objections. Theoretically. In reality, the client almost always has some questions or concerns about the solution being offered by the salesperson. When these come up before a formal proposal is offered, they are simply called questions. When they come up after the formal proposal has been given, they are called objections.
This may seem like simple semantics, but that is not the case. A friend of mine who is a negotiations consultant calls the moment the price is identified “the border.” Once you cross it, it is like you are in another country altogether. Before reaching the border, you and your prospect are having a conversation, and there are questions. Sometimes these questions are heated and sometimes they are the same questions that might be seen as objections later. But the time before a price is on the table is always less confrontational than afterward, when a price is being attacked and defended by the respective parties.
How can you find out about the objection-handling skills of your prospective salespeople? You can either ask about them or test them.
If you decide to ask about them, do so directly: “How do you handle objections?”
If your candidates are bold enough to say that they don’t get objections, ask them how they make that unlikely situation happen.
If they tell you that they do get objections and they use various techniques to “handle them” such as the alternative close, Ben Franklin, or other old, dusty and theoretical approaches, then you may want to test them to see what that sounds like. But be careful─ it could be ugly! It may be that they just read about these and make their living dodging objections and losing orders because of it. Everyone gets lucky now and then, but that’s not a winning formula!
The answers you want will be along the lines of dialogue, not technique. Professional salespeople who succeed in the 21st century are not doing so because they use timeworn techniques. They succeed because they listen to their prospects, seek to understand their objections, and work to address them. The best salespeople believe in their products and learn enough about how to use them that they can represent them with honest enthusiasm and pride. When a good salesperson learns the prospects needs and matches them well to a solution, his or her unspoken internal reaction to an objection should be along the lines of the following:
“There must be something that the prospect does not understand. If they understood, they would buy.” I need to keep working here until we both better understand the best way forward.”
The job of the salesperson is to help the prospect understand. This process of seeking to understand issues and then to foster mutual understanding is the right approach to objection-handling. This is not a technique, but rather a perspective on communication, with the goal of a mutually beneficial outcome.
This kind of attitude wins with prospects and should be the approach you are looking for in your salespeople. This will foster the kind of long-term client relationships that are profitable for a long time, not a trick that gets a one-time sale.
Great objection-handlers probably got that way because they missed a lot of things early in the process. By doing so, they get lots of chances to practice handling objections later in the process rather than answering questions early on. Great salespeople arrive at the normal place objections show up ─ after a price is presented, in between the offering of a solution and a close ─ with a good relationship with the prospect and a solid understanding of the problem and the solution. They build on that towards the consummation of a deal. Asking if the client would like delivery on Monday or Tuesday just doesn’t work anymore, and you shouldn’t let someone who pulls this kind of crap work in a respectable sales organization.
If you can’t get a good answer about objections in dialogue, then test your prospective sales candidates. They are selling themselves to you in this job interview, so throw them an objection or a stall and see how they handle it. Tell them their salary request is too high, or that you are not convinced that they would be a good fit for the organization, or that their experience does not look sufficient for the job. See how they handle it; maybe you will be pleasantly surprised!
Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)
So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.
If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:
The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.
Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.
The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.
If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.
Here’s to your success!